American Telemedicine Association’s policy duo Jonathan Linkous, CEO and Gary Capistrant, Senior Director of Public Policy, return with updates and new information regarding telemedicine.
There are currently 30 plus proposed bills before Congress and 2013 has been one of the biggest years for telehealth legislation. The most notable is the Harper Bill which has been previously discussed; the biggest emphasis is getting this bill to the Congressional Budget Office so they can provide their estimate as to the cost savings this bill provides.
Telestroke is a major component which Linkous says can help revolutionize stroke care. Last year over 100,000 people who had a stroke were seen in an ER remotely by a neurologist. While he can’t be sure how many lives were saved, he guesses it was a significant percentage. Unfortunately, the savings associated with telestroke are not necessarily while patients are in the hospital. They come after patients have been discharged since they don’t have to go to rehab or go to the nursing home as much. This presents a challenge for the Congressional Budget Office to quantify the savings of the Harper Bill.
Another bill introduced is Peters H.R. 3507 for TRICARE and all of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA). Essentially, it will establish parity coverage for teleheath and it will also make one state license all that’s necessary for physicians to practice via telehealth. Other bills include the Step Act (H.R. 1832), VETS Act, H.R. 2001 and the TELE-MED Act, H.R. 3077 which also support the requirement for only one state license necessary to practice telehealth.
A major topic is dealing with internet prescriptions or the ability to prescribe medication without actually seeing a patient in person. There are several state professional regulations and state medical boards that have different rules regarding licensing, standard of care and scope of practice. Since there are so many different ways states are handling this topic the ATA is working on developing a set of guidelines.
ATA is currently working on a series of guidelines and telehealth best practices for remote ICU, burns and wounds, and primary and urgent care. They are currently awaiting review and approval from the Board and should be available in the next few months.